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TIFF 2017 Review: “Unicorn Store” is Pure Magical Joy

TIFF 2017 Review: “Unicorn Store” is Pure Magical Joy

Brie Larson’s feature directorial debut is a whimsical, fantastic film that reaches the inner child and dreamers among us all. Kit (Brie Larson) is a young woman freshly kicked out of her art school and must move home with her parents. Determined to leave behind her childish past, she gets a temp job and tries to join the working world. As she attempts to manage her career with an inappropriate boss and a menial job, she received a cryptic invitation to a store.

Intrigued, she ventures to the store and encounters the salesman (Samuel L. Jackson). He informs her that he can get her a unicorn, something she’s wanted her entire life. However, before she can get the unicorn, she has to prove she’s capable of caring for a unicorn. Through these steps, she learns more about herself, her family and meets a young man named Virgil (Mamoudou Athie). She continues to follow the salesman’s instructions and work towards getting the unicorn and possibly an even better gift that she isn’t expecting.

Writer Samantha McIntyre creates a magical world that is both whimsical and self-reflective. The humor works so effortlessly in this film and couples with a genuinely endearing lead; we are given a beautiful story about growing up and still managing to retain our individuality. Kit’s inability to accept love and therefore give love holds her back from moving forward in her life.  Through her actions to prepare for her unicorn, she learns to love and care for herself and thus opening her up to accepting love of others, particularly Virgil.

The performances in Unicorn Store are phenomenal from the leads to the smaller characters. Brie Larson, of course, knocks it out of the park. She embodies the naivety, optimism, and loneliness of Kit. Her performance reaches to the core of the audiences and we all become Kit. We all feel her joy and excitement as well as her uncertainty and desperation. Mamoudou Athie is one of my favorite up and coming actors. He stole my heart in Patti Cake$ and continued that trajectory in this film. As Virgil, he is sincere, slightly cynical but open-minded. His tenderness and love toward Kit is beautifully portrayed in his facial expressions and mannerisms in the role.

Even the smaller roles enrich the world of Unicorn Store. Kit’s slightly wacky parents played by Joan Cusack, and Bradley Whitford add context to her character. Their eccentricity adds humor to the relationship with Kit. Kevin (Karan Soni) is hilarious as the awkward character between her and her parents. The two co-workers (Martha MacIsaac and Ryan Hanson) who help her are a lot of fun and add to the joy and magic in one scene that contains an impossible amount of glitter. Hamish Linklater plays his character perfectly. The chemistry between him and Brie is spot-on and expertly timed comedic delivery. 

The costume and set design in the film are simplistic but work for the film. It has a small intimate scale that enriches the film and characters by focusing our attention on their relationship and emotions. The attention to detail and set design is also well done. The colors and designs used in the film work to enhance the world that Brie has set out to create.

Unicorn Store is the film I never knew I needed but having seen, can’t imagine being without. The costumes, characters and sharp genuinely funny writing work to create a world that is whimsical, magical and joyous. Brie Larson’s feature directorial debut is a triumphant and enchanting film. Afterall, everyone needs a unicorn in their lives every once and a while.

8.5
Great
Written by
Ashley Menzel is an avid film lover and lives in Los Angeles, CA. She loves foreign films and dramas and reading books that have film adaptations. Her favorite movie of all time is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. She loves Doctor Who, Supernatural, iZombie, and Grimm.

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